Glen Senk Explains His Journey To CEO Of Urban Outfitters And Anthropologie

I started earning money in my early teens by teaching others to ride and training other people’s horses. Then my father began buying young horses for me to train, compete with and then sell. I paid for my college and graduate school education with what I earned.

I graduated from New York University and the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, but spending time with horses taught me the most. Showing horses teaches strategy, discipline, collaboration and patience. You learn to be fluid, to respond quickly, athletically and effectively to whatever comes your way.

I started riding again five years ago and compete about 15 times a year. It’s stressful being accountable to customers, shareholders and more than 12,000 employees. Riding relieves the tension. It’s a total release, and it keeps me in shape. Most people don’t realize the strength it takes to ride. You control the horse with your core muscles and your balance, and guide it with your legs. You’ve got to remain absolutely still — especially over the jumps — so as not to interfere with the animal. I practice about 10 hours a week, and I work out several days a week to maintain my strength and stamina.

By my second year in business school, I knew that I wanted to enter the retail business. Retail allows me to be master of my own destiny. I liked the fact that retailers have control over the products they carry, the selling environment and pricing. I also loved the theatrics of retail. There was a connection to the showmanship I have learned from my days with horses.

My first job after graduating was with Bloomingdale’s. I had nine great years there, starting as an assistant buyer and finishing as senior vice president and managing director of Bloomingdale’s by Mail.

My partner, Keith, and I had always been Anglophiles, so when I was offered an executive job at the retailer Habitat in London, we decided to move. We loved it there, but we were ready to come back to the States after a couple of years. I joined Williams-Sonoma in the United States as the head merchant for all five of its businesses. Two years later, I decided to leave to start a food business.

As I was developing the plan and raising the capital, I met Dick Hayne, the founder of Urban Outfitters. Dick offered me a job, but I was determined to start my own business. After another year of raising money, I realized that I was a better merchant than money-raiser. I returned my investors’ money and joined Urban Outfitters as president of the Anthropologie brand. Dick had promised to let me run Anthropologie as if it were my own, and he was true to his word. In 2007 I became C.E.O. of Urban Outfitters.

Keith is Anthropologie’s antiques buyer and gallery director. He and I split our time between Philadelphia, where our corporate headquarters is located, New York City and Florida. - NY Times


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